Review: Bare Bones Software BBEdit

A robust text editor that can perform many coding functions. (March 12th, 2011)

BBEdit, from Bare Bones Software, is a robust text editor that can perform many coding functions. Although it is easy to use, it has many complex features. It can open practically any length document, provides custom color-coding, and offers multiple find options.

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: Bare Bones Software

Price: $99.99 US

The Good

  • Simple text editor.
  • Can open extremely large documents.
  • Capable of deep complexity as needed.
  • HTML5, Perl, Java and multiple coding languages supported.
  • Highly scriptable and customizable.
  • Non-modal Find and Multi-File Search windows.
  • Can sync settings across Macs with MobileMe.

The Bad

  • Steep learning curve for advanced work.
  • Occasional pauses where software seems to get lost briefly.

BBEdit is an all-purpose text editor. It is very simple on the surface and easy to use for anyone who wants to produce clean text on a daily basis, but capable of handling complex work for HTML professionals or software developers. It offers find and replace options and a scratchpad for moving blocks of text or reworking code without opening another window. It also has text completion for quick additions of not just words but codes and other text blocks you use regularly. The software's non-modal search and replace function works across multiple files so you can keep multiple search and document windows open, allowing for complex code development.

Main Window

Main Window and Text Menu

BBEdit recently added HTML5 support, which allows you to preview and debug the newest web code. It is also scriptable, supporting both AppleScript and Open Scripting Architecture. Growl and Lasso Script support are other recent additions.


Sample HTML

The software can manage computer codes like C, C++, Java, JavaScript, Perl, PHP Python, and Unix, to name a few. Developers can also add additional languages through an available SDK for creating new language modules, so it is safe to say that BBEdit can work with any computer coding language. It manages Terminal commands too.


Terminal Example

BBEdit, an easy to navigate program, does an excellent job of keeping its complexity under the surface. It is simple to use as a text editor, and it has color coding so you can keep levels of HTML separate visually, which helps reduce complexity. It also has numerous adjustment options a mouse-click or menu away. Clipping sets with language support, mean you can access often-used items or custom tags without having to run searches or have large numbers of documents open.

Text Colors

Text Colors Preference

The Scratchpad offers you a window, in which you can manipulate text like performing transforms, edits, or batches of copy and paste. It allows you to prepare text, especially active code, before pasting it elsewhere. The Scratchpad window automatically saves its content and state so you don't have to be concerned over losing work you have in the window.



The text editor offers you numerous ways to shape it to your needs. You can create customized keyboard shortcuts or write AppleScript, Perl, and Unix Shell scripts, creating new functionality. You can also change the behavior of the built-in menus using attached AppleScripts.

customizing a menu

Customizing a Menu Command

BBEdit manages HTML5 coding well. It has built-in support for HTML5 syntax and can check syntactic correctness in HTML or XHTML source files.

HTML5 Code

Example of HTML5 Code

HTML coding professionals who need to work with Windows, BBEdit can use VMware Fusion to preview Windows web browsers in the preview window.


The recently added Sleep command can be set to auto-save on sleep, shutdown or reboot. It also saves as much data as possible on a system crash, which can be a lifesaver if you are adjusting code across multiple documents.

Minor Glitch

For general text creation and editing I found the software to be strong with only one occasional glitch. At times you may see slight delays in response to typing, as if it was pausing before catching up. When this happens it can be a distraction, as you tend to get a bit lost in what you are typing ahead of what you are seeing. Thankfully, it is not a constant problem; it only occurs occasionally. Usually saving your open document(s), quitting, and reopening the software clears out the problem. (Editor's note: It is not known whether the delay is related to the new text automatic completion feature. Another MacNN reviewer only experienced the delay when this feature was engaged.)

Editing Prefs

Editing General Preferences

While BBEdit is simple to work in as a text editor, the complex underpinnings can be a challenge to grasp if you are a new user. There are numerous options spread across the menu bar and interspersed on the document edges and optional windows. As you seek more complex tasks it feels intimidating at first. However, there are excellent help resources and web resources for locating what you need or want to accomplish.


BBEdit gives very little opportunity to find fault. In its current version, v9.6.3, it is a robust text editor with a long history of upgrading to new and unfolding web and developer languages. It has an excellent track record for keeping up with standards or providing you with a way to add what you need through scripting and plug-ins.

The only weaknesses I found in testing, over a number of weeks using the software as my de facto word processor, was the occasional tendency to have slight pauses when typing. The steep learning curve for users who are new to the software and want to work in complex modes keeps BBEdit from a five-star rating, but only just. As a text editor, HTML coder, or software development tool it is an excellent performer at a reasonable price. BBEdit 9.6.3 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later, but 10.5.8 or 10.6.6 are recommended. The download version from the site also still works on PowerPC-based Macs, but the one available in the Mac App Store is Intel only.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor. Disclaimer: Bare Bones Software is a long time supporter of Ilene's Macworld Hess Events List and she's used it for over 15 years.

by EV Hunt


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